Local people are being given the opportunity to view exciting plans to develop new cycle paths linking Staffordshire with the Peak District national park along one of the Counties historic waterways.
The project will see the creation of four new cycle ways directly into the national park from the surrounding urban areas and is expected to benefit around 3.5 million people.
The project is being funded through the Government's National Park Cycle Fund, with the Peak District National Park receiving £5 million, with an additional £2.5 million being provided by local authorities and a range of other organisations.
One of the key routes will see the historic towpath of the Caldon Canal improved to provide a link connecting the Potteries through the Staffordshire Moorlands to the Peak District.
The project will see £2m spent on improving the towpath for both walkers and cyclists which is the largest investment in Staffordshire's canal network in recent years.
A drop-in event giving local people the opportunity to view the plans and speak to some of the organisations behind the project will take place on Thursday 6th February from 4.30pm to 7.00pm at the Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club, off Park Lane in Endon.
Cllr Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Economy and Infrastructure with Staffordshire County Council said: "We are very excited about the project and I am delighted to see the work underway.
"Cycling is a great activity that not only helps people lead healthier lives but also helps to reduce congestion on our roads, and we are committed to developing our cycling network.
"The new routes will also provide a sustainable boost to tourism and the rural economy by encouraging more people to cycle along routes that pass through a number of local communities.
"We will continue to work closely with our partner authorities to deliver high quality cycle routes to the Peak District. Our aim is to develop existing routes and build new routes which connect with the extensive cycle network already on offer within the park."
Contractors, working in partnership with the Canal & River Trust, will start at Stockton Brook in Stoke-on-Trent and work on sections of the towpath progressing towards Endon and on to Cheddleton and Leek.
From there an on road signed route to the Roaches from Leek and to the Manifold Valley will be provided as part of the project.
The project will provide visitors the opportunity to access this green, wildlife-rich gateway into both the Churnet Valley and Peak District National Park.
Charlotte Atkins, chair of the Canal & River Trust's Central Shires Waterway Partnership, said; "We're delighted to see works progressing to develop this important route with the County Council. Running through some of Staffordshire's most spectacular countryside and steeped in history, the Caldon Canal is a very special place for visitors to explore.
"We really hope that walkers and cyclists will take the time to stop off and appreciate what the canal, and the communities it runs through have to offer as they make their way into and out of the beautiful Peak District."
Tony Favell, Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority said:
"This project will provide a new and healthy way for people from Staffordshire urban areas to get into the National Park and enjoy the beautiful landscapes and wildlife it has to offer. It is great for family cycling and for walkers too and will reduce traffic congestion."
Staffordshire has good access to the National Cycling Networks (NCN) which connects with many local routes across the County.
Local cycling maps for all districts are available from local libraries and you can find out more at www.staffordshire.gov.uk.
The work is expected to be completed in June 2015. Small sections of the towpath will be closed at a time to allow the work to be carried out safely and to minimise any inconvenience caused.
For further information on the scheme drop into the event at the Stoke-on-Trent Boat club on Thursday 6th February from 4.30pm to 7.00pm or contact the project manager at Staffordshire County Council at firstname.lastname@example.org
In August 2013 the Pedal Peak Phase 2 project was awarded £5 million from the Government's National Park Cycle Fund, with £1.75 million of this being specific to the projects in Staffordshire.
To achieve this level of funding Staffordshire County Council has agreed to match fund the project with an overall investment of £580k of the two years.
In addition funding and work in kind has been secured through the Canal and River Trust, the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership and by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
The four new cycle trails proposed as part of this project include;
Staffordshire Moorlands Link - 14 miles (from Stockton Brook near Stoke to both the Roaches and the Manifold Valley) White Peak Loop - 11 miles (around Buxton and Bakewell) Little Don Link - 12 miles (near Sheffield and Barnsley) Little John Route and Hope Valley Link - 3 miles (connection between Sheffield and Manchester)
The Canal & River Trust is the guardian of 2,000 miles of historic waterways across England and Wales.
It is among the largest charities in the UK, maintaining the nation's third largest collection of Listed structures, as well as museums, archives, navigations and hundreds of important wildlife sites.
They believe that our canals and rivers are a national treasure and a local haven for people and wildlife.
It is their job to care for this wonderful legacy - holding it in trust for the nation in perpetuity and giving people a greater role in the running of their local waterways